Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to Damages Caused by Aircraft to Third Parties on the Surface, Signed at Rome, May 29, 1933 23

[Translation]24

His Majesty the King of Albania, the President of the German Reich, the President of the United States of America, the Federal President of the Republic of Austria, His Majesty the King of the Belgians, the President of the United States of Brazil, the President of the Republic of Chile, the President of the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China, the President of the Republic of Colombia, the President of the Republic of Cuba, His Majesty the King of Denmark and Iceland, the President of the Republic of Ecuador, the President of the Republic of El Salvador, the President of the Spanish Republic, the President of the Republic of Finland, the President of the French Republic, His Majesty the King of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Territories beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, the President of the Republic of Guatemala, the President of the Hellenic Republic, the President of the Republic of Honduras, His Most Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, His Majesty the King of Italy, His Majesty the Emperor [Page 969]of Japan, the President of the Republic of Lithuania, the President of the United States of Mexico, the President of the Republic of Nicaragua, His Majesty the King of Norway, Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands, the President of the Republic of Poland, the President of the Republic of Portugal, His Majesty the King of Rumania, the President of the Dominican Republic, the Captains Regent of the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, His Holiness the Sovereign Pontiff, His Majesty the King of Sweden, the Swiss Federal Council, the President of the Czechoslovak Republic, the President of the Republic of Turkey, the Central Executive Committee of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the President of the United States of Venezuela, His Majesty the King of Yugoslavia,

having recognized the advantage of regulating in a uniform manner the liability for damages caused by aircraft to third parties on the surface,

have to this end named their respective plenipotentiaries, who, being thereto duly authorized, have concluded and signed the following Convention:

Article 1

The High Contracting Parties agree to take the necessary measures in order to put into force the rules established by the present Convention.

Article 2

(1)
The damage caused by an aircraft in flight to persons or property on the surface shall give a right to compensation by the mere fact that it is established that the damage exists and that it was caused by the aircraft.
(2)
This provision shall be applicable to the following:
(a)
Damage caused by any body whatever falling from the aircraft, even in the case of regulation jettison of ballast or jettison made in a case of necessity;
(b)
Damage caused by any person on board the aircraft, except in the case of an act intentionally committed by a person who is not a member of the crew, not connected with the operations, without the operator or his agents having been able to prevent it.
(3)
The aircraft is considered as in flight from the beginning of the operations of departure until the end of the operations of arrival.

Article 3

The liability contemplated in the preceding article cannot be reduced or avoided except in the case where the negligence of the injured party caused the damage or contributed thereto.

[Page 970]

Article 4

(1)
The liability contemplated in Article 2 shall attach to the operator of the aircraft.
(2)
Any person who has the right of disposal of, and uses the aircraft on his own account shall be termed operator of the aircraft.
(3)
In case the operator’s name is not inscribed on the aeronautic register or any other official document, the owner shall be presumed to be the operator subject to proof to the contrary.

Article 5

Any person who, without having the right to dispose of the aircraft, makes use of it without the consent of the operator shall be liable for the damage caused, and the operator who has not taken the proper measures to avoid the unlawful use of his aircraft shall be jointly liable with him, each of them being bound on the conditions and within the limits of the present Convention.

Article 6

In case of damage caused on the surface by two or more colliding aircraft, the operators of such aircraft shall be jointly and severally liable to the injured third parties, each one of them being bound on the conditions and within the limits of the present Convention.

Article 7

The preceding provisions shall not prejudge the question as to whether the operator of the aircraft shall or shall not have recourse against the author of the damage.

Article 8

(1)
The operator shall be liable for each accident for an amount not to exceed a sum determined at the rate of 250 francs per kilogram of weight of the aircraft. By the weight of the aircraft shall be understood the weight of the aircraft with the full maximum load, as shown on the certificate of airworthiness or any other official document.
(2)
However, the limit of the operator’s liability cannot be less than 600,000 francs nor more than 2,000,000 francs.
(3)
One-third of this value shall be assigned to compensation for damages caused to property and the other two-thirds to compensation for damages caused to persons, provided that in this last case the compensation contemplated cannot exceed 200,000 francs per person injured.
[Page 971]

Article 9

If several persons have suffered damages in the same accident and if the total amount to be paid as compensation exceeds the limits contemplated in Article 8, a proportional reduction in each one’s rights must be made in such manner that the total shall not exceed the above-mentioned limits.

Article 10

(1)
The persons who have suffered damages in the same accident must assert their rights or give notice of their claims to the operator within the maximum period of six months from the day of the accident.
(2)
This period having expired, settlement of the compensation may properly be made; the interested parties having permitted the above period to elapse without asserting their rights or giving notice of their claims shall not be able to exercise their rights except on such amount as shall not have been distributed.

Article 11

If different injured third parties act in accordance with the provisions of the preceding articles and Article 16 before courts situated in different countries, the defendant may submit a statement, before each of them, of the total amount of the claims and moneys due, with a view to preventing the limits of his liability from being exceeded.

Article 12

(1)
Any aircraft entered on the register of a territory of one High Contracting Party, in order to navigate above the territory of another High Contracting Party, must be insured against the damages considered in the present Convention, within the limits determined in Article 8 above, with a public insurance institution or an insurer authorized for this risk in the territory of registry of the aircraft.
(2)
The domestic legislation of any High Contracting Party may substitute for the insurance, wholly or in part, another guarantee for the risks considered in the present Convention:
(a)
in the form of a cash deposit made in a public fund or a bank authorized for this purpose in the territory of registry of the aircraft;
(b)
in the form of a guarantee given by a bank authorized for this purpose in the territory of registry of the aircraft.
Said cash deposit and said guarantee must be brought up to their full amount as soon as the sums which they represent become subject to reduction by the amount of a payment for compensation.
(3)
The insurance, the cash deposit and the bank guarantee must be especially and preferentially assigned to payment of the compensations due on account of the damages contemplated in the present Convention.

Article 13

(1)
The kind, extent and duration of the sureties contemplated in Article 12 above shall be evidenced either in an official certificate or by an official notation on one of the ship’s papers. Said certificate or document must be produced whenever required by the public authorities or upon the request of any party concerned.
(2)
Said certificate or said document shall serve to attest the situation of the aircraft with respect to the obligations of the present Convention.

Article 14

The operator shall not be entitled to avail himself of the provisions of the present Convention which limit his liability:

(a)
if it is proved that the damage was caused by gross negligence or wilful misconduct on the part of the operator and his agents, unless the operator proves that the damage was due to an error in piloting, operation or navigation, or, in a matter affecting his agents, that he has taken all the proper measures to prevent the damage;
(b)
if he has not furnished one of the sureties prescribed in the present Convention, or if the sureties furnished are not in force or do not cover the operator’s liability for the damage caused within the terms and limits of the present Convention.

Article 15

In case the operator of more than one aircraft furnishes the surety prescribed in the present Convention in the form of a cash deposit or a bank guarantee, the surety shall be deemed to cover the full limit of his liability for all the aircraft operated, if the deposit or the guarantee amounts to a sum arrived at by reducing the amount of the surety which he should furnish for the total number of his aircraft by one-third in case he operates two aircraft, and by one-half in case he operates three or more. Furthermore it shall be deemed to cover the full limit of liability for all the aircraft if it amounts to the sum of 2,500,000 francs for two aircraft or 3,000,000 francs for three or more.

Article 16

The following have competent jurisdiction over suits for damages in the territory of any one of the High Contracting Parties, as the claimant may elect: the judicial authorities of the defendant’s domicile and those of the place where the damage was caused, without [Page 973]prejudice to the injured third party’s right of direct action against the insurer in a case in which it can be exercised.

Article 17

(1)
Such suits shall be barred after one year from the day of the damage. If the injured party proves that he could not have known either of the damage or the identity of the person liable, the period of limitation shall begin from the day when he could have had knowledge thereof.
(2)
In every case, the suit shall be barred after three years from the day when the damage was caused.
(3)
The manner of calculating the period of limitation as well as the causes of suspension and interruption of the period shall be determined by the law of the court before which the suit is brought.

Article 18

In the case of the death of the person liable, an action for damages lies in accordance with the terms of this Convention against those legally representing his estate.

Article 19

The sums stated in francs in the present Convention are considered to refer to the French franc containing 65½ milligrams of gold of a fineness of 900/1000. They may be converted into any national currency in round numbers.

Article 20

(1)
The present Convention shall be applicable whenever any damage has been caused on the surface in the territory of one High Contracting Party by an aircraft registered in the territory of another High Contracting Party.
(2)
The expression “territory of one High Contracting Party” shall include, for the purposes of the present Convention, any territory under the sovereign power, suzerainty, protection, mandate or authority of the said High Contracting Party for which the latter is a party to the Convention.

Article 21

The present Convention shall not apply to military, customhouse or police aircraft.

Article 22

The present Convention shall not apply to damages caused on the surface compensation for which is governed by a transportation contract or a labor contract entered into between the injured party [Page 974]and the one upon whom liability falls under the terms of the present Convention.

Article 23

The present Convention shall be drawn up in French in a single copy which shall remain deposited in the archives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Italy, and of which a duly certified copy shall be sent by the Government of the Kingdom of Italy to each of the Governments concerned.

Article 24

(1)
The present Convention shall be ratified. The instruments of ratification shall be deposited in the archives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Italy, which shall notify each of the Governments concerned of the deposit thereof.
(2)
As soon as five ratifications shall have been deposited, the Convention shall come into force as between the High Contracting Parties which shall have ratified it ninety days after the deposit of the fifth ratification. Any ratification which is deposited subsequently shall take effect ninety days after such deposit.
(3)
It shall be the duty of the Government of the Kingdom of Italy to notify each of the Governments concerned of the date on which the present Convention comes into force.

Article 25

(1)
The present Convention, after coming into force, shall be open for accession.
(2)
Accession shall be made through a notification addressed to the Government of the Kingdom of Italy, which shall inform each of the Governments concerned thereof.
(3)
The accession shall take effect ninety days after the notification to the Government of the Kingdom of Italy.

Article 26

(1)
Any one of the High Contracting Parties may denounce the present Convention by a notification addressed to the Government of the Kingdom of Italy which shall at once inform each of the Governments concerned thereof.
(2)
The denunciation shall take effect six months after the notification of the denunciation and shall operate only with respect to the party making the denunciation.

Article 27

(1)
The High Contracting Parties may, at the time of signature, deposit of the ratifications or accession, declare that the acceptance [Page 975]which they give to the present Convention shall not apply to all or to any part of their colonies, protectorates, overseas territories, mandated territories or any other territory under their sovereignty, authority or suzerainty.
(2)
The High Contracting Parties may subsequently notify the Government of the Kingdom of Italy that they intend to render the present Convention applicable to all or to any part of their colonies, protectorates, overseas territories, mandated territories or any other territory under their sovereignty, authority or suzerainty, so excluded from their original declaration.
(3)
They may, at any time, notify the Government of the Kingdom of Italy that they intend to have the present Convention cease to apply to all or any part of their colonies, protectorates, overseas territories, mandated territories or any other territory under their sovereignty, authority or suzerainty.
(4)
The Government of the Kingdom of Italy shall notify each of the Governments concerned of notifications made in accordance with the last two paragraphs.

Article 28

Any High Contracting Party shall be entitled not earlier than two years after the coming into force of the present Convention to call for the meeting of another international Conference in order to consider any improvements which might be made in the present Convention. To this end it shall communicate with the Government of the French Republic which shall take the necessary measures in preparation for such Conference.

The present Convention, done at Rome, May 29, 1933, shall remain open for signature until January 1, 1934.

In testimony whereof the Plenipotentiaries have signed the present Convention.

  • For Germany:
    • Reinhold Richter
    • Dr. Wegerdt
    • Dr. Albrecht
    • Dr. Jur. Otto Riese
  • For the United States of America:
  • The Delegation of the United States of America declares that the Convention shall apply only within the continental limits of the United States of America exclusive of the territory of Alaska.
    • John C. Cooper, Jr.
    • Jaeckel
    • John Jay Ide
  • For Austria:
    • Gruenebaum
    • Strobele
  • For Belgium:
    • H. DeVos
  • For Brazil:
    • Alcibiades Peçanha
    • Trajano Madeiros do Paço
  • For Denmark:
    • L. Ingerslev
    • Knud Gregersen
  • For El Salvador:
    • A. Sandoval
  • For Spain:
    • Juan F. de Ranero
    • Alejandro Arias Salgado
  • For France:
    • A. de Lapradelle
    • George Ripert
  • For Great Britain and North Ireland:
    • A. H. Dennis
    • A. W. Brown
  • For India:
    • A. H. Dennis
    • A. W. Brown
  • For Guatemala:
    • J. Herrera
    • Federico G. Murga
  • For Italy:
    • A. Giannini
  • For Lithuania:
    • V. Carneckis
  • For Norway:
    • M. Mjoellner
  • For Poland:
    • León Babinski
  • For Rumania:
    • D. I. Ghika
    • Al. Cantacuzino Pascanu
    • Et. Veron
  • For San Marino:
    • Gozi
  • For Switzerland:
    • F. Hess
    • Clerc
  • For Czechoslovakia:
    • Szalatnay Dr. Jur. Netík
  • For Turkey:
    • H. Vassif 8/6/33
  1. Reprinted from Department of State, Treaty Information, Bulletin No. 47, August 31, 1933, p. 27. This convention has not come into force.
  2. Original in French only; translation made in Department of State. For French text see IIIeme Conférence Internationale de Droit Privé Aérien, vol. ii, p. 173.